Tetra Splendor

Breaking Even

I first saw Tetra Splendor in September 2001 and remember having that rare feeling of discovering something for myself with no preconceptions. Amongst a small crowd I felt knocked back by an ambitious tidal wave of sound, I was watching something young and quite special. Five months later I’m sitting in a near empty pub with singer/keyboard player Gareth Jones and guitarist Peter Roberts, the nucleus behind Tetra Splendour.

Tell me what you would describe as the bands’ first big break?

Peter: We sent about 25 demos in jiffy bags to labels using the traditional formula of a tape, photo, biog and gig list and then a guy from Sony and a guy from Virgin came down to our home town in Porthcawl, Wales for a gig. About 400 friends and locals turned up after hearing rumours of label interest.

NC: Was it good gig?

Gareth: I don’t think we were very accomplished live back then at all! All in all it was a long arduous process over a period of months. After that it was a word of mouth thing and the first London show we played was packed but we weren’t quite ready for it at that time. In retrospect we may have been in a better position if we held back a little and improved the live show, but when you are on the doll and out of a job you don’t contemplate these options. Eventually a guy at EMI who was a tea boy recommended us to his boss and it all happened much quicker with him.

Peter: Now we have played over 100 gigs and we’ve totally improved. The tightness of the band has gained by performing, there is only so much you can do in the rehearsal room. Then there is the whole recording process...The 3 environments are completely different worlds.

NC: When you were recording your album did you find that some things you were doing live didn’t work?

Peter: Yeah, allot of the recorded tracks are driven by samples and atmospheric sounds, so when we are practising for live we perform stripped down versions. Being a four piece makes it difficult replicate all the parts. The songs go through a long process of developing before they are ready.

NC: When will I get to hear this the album?

Peter: The album is out on the 25th of May and it sounds amazing. We recorded it in June/July last year. A couple of the tracks were recorded months before that because they were singles. Now we have more than enough material for a second album!

Gareth: Some the tracks we play live were on the original demos that we sent out years ago so we’ve been playing them for a long, long time but to the audience they are all new!

NC: Do you feel comfortable with comparisons to other bands?

Peter: No. Not at all, I hate the way that when every new band comes through they get compared to whoever is big at that point.

N.: It is hard to describe a new band to people who haven’t heard them and not compare them with something known. Do you think that certain bands have become a catchword to describing you?

Gareth: Not so far, but I think that if someone described us as sounding like Travis it would be completely ridiculous and throw people off!

NC: Was there an artist or band that really changed your life?

Gareth: Neil Young, after hearing “After the Goldrush” from my Dads’ record collection. I started writing songs on the piano after that and got into Decca releases, John Lennon and the Beatles, especially the White Album.

Peter: I think guitar wise, Peter Green. I listen to a whole range of stuff but if I were to go right from the beginning it would be the Doors and then later, Beck.

NC: Who would your ideal producer be?

Peter: Al Cooper. He has been involved in a hundred albums form Dylan to the Who and was a pioneer of 'moog synths', that sort of thing.

NC: Have you met him?

Peter: No, but our manager Paul Townsend (Peter Townsends’ brother) emailed him with some questions about various albums and remarkably he emailed back and after further exchanges offered to produce our next album! I don’t know how serious he is though, maybe he’s just saying that because he’s skint or something!

NC: Did you manage yourselves at any point?

Gareth: Yes, to the point where we were getting A'n'R to come and see us. I remember that over a period of a year I phoned every pub in South Wales, sent them demos and didn’t get any replies. I didn’t know what to do, pub’s like the one we are sitting in (note: the Rutland and Derby arms!) and it was pointless.

Peter: We eventually struck up a rapport with a guy at Thirteen Artists’ management and they set up a tour but we were signed by then and everything started fitting into place.

NC: Have you found it difficult to cope during such an intensive tour?

Peter: I know on the surface it seems like we’ve been gigging lots, but as far as we’re concerned we aren’t gigging enough! We haven’t been back to the studio properly since we started touring! Before we recorded the album we did gigs here and there, but never considered ourselves as a band on the road.
The whole glamour of being on the road just doesn’t exist like you hear about!
At the moment we are just doing it for the experience of playing live full time.

Gareth: I suppose you could make it glamorous!

Peter: What? standing at the bar getting pissed on your own?

Gareth: errrm, yeah I suppose.

NC: Which band would you like to support above all others?

Gareth: Supergrass! We were all hanging out together when we were 14 or so and “I should Coco” was the soundtrack of that summer, we played it every day.

NC: Supergrass played the festivals many times do you plan for Tetra Splendour to hit the festivals this summer?

Peter: We wanna play the European ones, we haven’t been abroad yet and they pay lots of money so you can make them financially viable.

NC: So this current tour isn’t making you money?

Gareth: We are just about cutting even especially through selling T-shirts.

Peter: You get a budget for the tour, which amounts to about a tenner a day each!

Another Manic's? Or maybe Dodgy, if we're making far fetched comparisions. Decide for yourselves, the single “Pollen Fever” is out on Emi Chrysalis. Keep your eyes open and your ears peeled for Tetra Splendour in 2002.

Interview by Na’im Cortazzi




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